Essay Criteria Judging

1. Initial judging is performed by teachers from within the grade. Teachers swap their student's essays so that no teacher judges their own student's papers.

2. Teachers must select at least 20% of student's essays, rounded upwards, for submission to the finals. They may include more if they feel the quality is there. In grades with more than 250 children, additional similar rounds of internal review continue until the total number of finalists does not exceed 50.

3. Finalists are submitted to the judges panel. The judges panel includes the contest sponsor or sponsor's designee, a second person selected by the sponsor, and the school principal or principal's designee.

4. The judges independently evaluate all the finalists, "on their understanding of the uniquely American concept of freedom." The judges also take into account:



Quality and depth of research

Style, grammar, spelling, punctuation and composition

Effectiveness of the student's use of a quotation

5. The actual assessment of the essays is left largely to the judges' discretion. A judge may select a single essay and two more finalists that, in the judge's opinion, best express the subject and deal with the questions proposed in the contest. A judge may also choose to assign a numerical value to the highest quality essays, and use this as a guide when meeting with the other judges to determine the winners.

6. The prize winners are determined in a meeting of the three judges, at which the panel discusses the various merits, argues for and against various entries, and selects, amongst themselves, the first place and two finalist entries. At their discretion, judges may list additional entrants for honorable mention.

7. The decision of the judges is final.

8. The winners' names, and honorable mentions if any, are written down during the judges meeting and sealed in an opaque envelope, which will not be opened until the award ceremony. The winning essays are also sealed in the envelope, and it is this copy of the winner that will be read aloud.

9. Contest timetable:

Starting date (give the rules to the students)

Due date (60 days from starting date. That date will be __________________; give students a reminder a week ahead)

Teachers select finalists (7 days later)

Judges decision reached (within 21 days of teachers first cut)

Awards program

10. To ensure impartiality, unfortunately, the sponsoring parent's child is automatically ineligible for the contest prizes. However, the sponsor's child should be encouraged to participate, and will win in the following ways:

The sponsor's child presents the winners' prizes on stage at the awards ceremony.

Sponsors agree to take their children out for a contest celebration, to a location of the child's choice. At this private celebration, the sponsor's child's entry and the winning entry are read aloud and compared.


Fae Savignano, Senior Vice President and expert on all things promotional, weighs in on what good criteria are for judging a contest in her blog post for the month.

As you are all probably aware, a contest is a game of skill; whereby entrants are judged on their ability to successfully perform skill-type activities. For example, writing an essay, preparing a recipe, answering trivia questions or solving puzzles would all be deemed to require skill.

To solidify the importance and absolute necessity of skill in a Contest, sponsors should focus on and clearly identify the scoring and judging process to be employed. The contest requirements, the criteria on which each entry will be judged, and the relative weight given to each criterion should be clearly identified. It is also important to state who will be judging these entries, their qualifications if applicable and explain the method of judging each entry.

Good judging criteria for contests should be thoughtfully considered when designing a contest, as the sponsor must clearly define their specific criteria for judging entries within the Official Rules. Selection of the appropriate judging criteria should be based on what are the sponsor’s goal(s) for the contest; what type of ROI and product/customer information they are trying to collect; how this fits into their advertising/social media plan; and, what has proven to work best in past “like” promotions.

For example, essay contests can be judged on originality, content, clarity of expression, humor and creativity; photo contests on composition, originality, clarity and quality of photo, color and creativity; video contests on originality; overall artistic impression; audience appeal, audio and visual quality of video and entertainment quality; recipe contests on ease of preparation, visual appeal and taste. In trivia and puzzle games, winners are judged by their ability to correctly answer the questions or solve the puzzles, sometimes with a time factor applied. Additional judging criteria examples include: appropriateness to theme; functionality, visual design, Creativity and uniqueness of concept and innovative means of delivering the message to name a few.

Once the judging criteria have been established, appropriate percentages must be assigned to each for an overall total of 100%. The percentage assigned to each criterion should be weighted upon the relevance to the promotion; the brand requirement and the sponsor’s goals. It is also important to ensure that judging criteria is objective, judges are expertly qualified, entrants compete on a level playing field, and tie-breakers are based on skill. And, remember that skill promotions require more administration than games of chance, because all entries must be considered and judged.

To learn more about running a skill contest and customizing the judging criteria to meet your goals, contact us.

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